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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Waters, Nigel --- "Editorial" [1999] PrivLawPRpr 32; (1999) 6(1) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 1


Nigel Waters

As PLPR moves into its sixth year, the pace of change of privacy regulation in Australia, and the wider region, continues to quicken. The major recent development is the publication of The Government’s proposed legislation for the protection of privacy in the private sector by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. Because of its significance, this is reproduced almost in full in this issue. Analysis will follow in a future issue.

Readers will be aware that publication has slipped behind schedule this year. We apologise for this and hope to catch up soon. For publishing reasons, the issues are being dated retrospectively. Because of the backlog of material, this issue is being published simultaneously with the next issue, 6(2).

August saw the approval by the ACCC of the Australian Direct Marketing Association’s Direct Marketing Code of Practice and the launch of version five of the Internet Industry Association’s Code of Conduct, which includes revised provisions relating to privacy and unsolicited email (spam) which are significantly better than the ADMA Code standard. Both of these initiatives are reported briefly in Private Parts in issue 6(2) and will be dealt with in more detail in future issues.

The calling of a state election in Victoria has interrupted the progress of the Data Protection Bill introduced in May, but this will hopefully be re-introduced by the new government and passed without delay.

Health privacy has become a specialist current within the wider privacy stream and in the lead article in issue 6(2) Meredith Carter revisits the justification for separate consideration and summarises the present state of play in Australia.

Privacy advocates cannot afford to lightly dismiss the genuine concern of the media about the potential for privacy laws to interfere with the public interest role of the news media and with free speech in general. Also in 6(2), Chris McLeod throws down a challenge in an article which some may find provocative, but which needs to be seriously considered.

On the wider international stage, the stand-off between the European Union and the American government over the ‘adequacy’ of privacy protection in the US continues. In this issue, we carry the latest report on the progress of negotiations, and in 6(2) a stimulating article by Chris Pounder which questions whether the adequacy debate, and threats of data export controls, is not a complete red herring (or furphy, in local parlance).

Private Parts in both issues is bursting with news and comment, covering a wide range of issues including telecommunications interception, internet privacy, personnel changes in Canberra and Hong Kong, some disturbing developments in the US and a critical audit report on Centrelink’s management of privacy. PLPR will continue to cover all these strands, and not only from the perspective of privacy advocates. More and more commentators are questioning the foundation values underpinning privacy laws — a trend which can be labelled as the ‘death of privacy’ argument. It is important that those of us committed to the protection of privacy meet these arguments head on — political support for privacy values is not so strong that we can take it for granted. PLPR welcomes contributions by both critics and defenders of privacy values, although we continue to be confident that the latter can win the debate, as citizens become more aware, in the world of electronic transactions, of how their information can be abused.

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